Earl W. Fernanders, 78, an area resident for 62 years who was active in senior citizen organizations, died of cancer Monday at Arlington Hospital.

Mr. Fernanders retired from the Navy Department's Service Center about 1968. He had been a supervisor of public works there for about eight years. Before that he had worked at the Naval Observatory in Washington.

He was born and reared in Camden, N.J., and came to this area about 1917. He was a longtime resident of Arlington.

His wife, Mary, whom he married in 1921, died in 1970.

Mr. Fernanders was a member of the Lomax A M E Zion Church in Arlington. He also was a member of the bowling league of the Third Baptist Church in Arlington.

He was active in the Title VII Citizens Group in Arlington and a past president of the Arlington YMCA'S senior citizens organization.

Survivors include three sons, Francis and Thomas, both of Washington, and Bernard, of Loudoun County, Va.; four daughters, Margaret, of the home in Arlington, Shirley Williams, also of Arlington, Mary Johnson, of Oxon Hill, and Cecelia Jackson, of Hillcrest Heights; a brother, Benjamin S., of Lawnside, N.J.; 16 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.